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“Mr. Franz, I Think Careers Are A 20th Century Invention, And I Don’t Want One”

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The first time I heard this quote was in the movie, ‘Into The Wild’. I remember watching that movie in the second year of my college, in the year 2017 and thinking, what an idiot would say that, I thought to myself.

Isn’t that what we have been fed since the very beginning, go to a good school, get educated, and then go to a college and study something which is reputed enough for you to hold a place in the society and then later, job to job, project to project, a career which has your works tracked in the timesheet of your work life, not as a matter of great significance but a role, after a role, after a role, until you retire someday and hope that the the good values you have seeped in your children, reap to fruition, and they provide for a swift shift to the heavens abode?

Isn’t that what we have been fed since the very beginning- go to a good school, and then go to a college and study something which is reputed enough for you to hold a place in the society?/ A still from the movie ‘Into the Wild’.

That was me at 20. I wanted a career, because what else do people do college for, right? But things changed, soon after the movie and how my experiences enfolded in the years that followed. I am 23 years old now, a graduate and in the job I absolutely love, I have been working for a year now, but, something has changed. I don’t want a career. When Chris in the movie said this, he also mentioned, that a career is more a liability than an asset and that he would just do fine without one.

While my ambitions aren’t as wild as Chris in the movie who cut his cards to pieces, burn the cash, packed his bags and set out in the wilderness of Alaska, it does stem to uproot from the construct of conformity which society makes for you to fall in, in its ‘default setting’ that resists greatness, creativity and disruption of culture. While it would be ideal to want greatness, creativity and disruption of culture in the course of my job which is a building block to a career, I know it for a fact, I am less likely to make it this way for the kind of habits it indulges in from day to day basis, for example, the power of productivity over presence, the rewarding system of mediocrity, and a carefully curated food chain that wants us to step on another to grab a bite.

This isn’t a problem with me alone, but also a few other friends of mine in a creative field, who are not able to find value in their work and are just doing a job, putting those ticks in the checkboxes day in and day out which will eventually result in a career. It says something about our culture which serves dissatisfaction to the workforce at large with their work.

Where did we get it wrong? Was it in the pursuit of education we did not want to pursue, the job we took which we did not want to take, the decision we took because with the motivation of fear and not love? In an Internet age, which is bursting of opportunities and vibrancy, how did we end up in the white-light rooms of lifestyle choices we don’t want to live one more day of?

Representational image.

Is It The Failure Of An Individual Or The Society As a Collective?

A job which is suitable for you, desirable for you can make for a good career and a journey, but how easy is it?

In one survey of the World Economic Forum and ORF, called Young India and Work- A Survey on Youth Aspirations, I found a few revelations.

“The survey reveals misalignments between youth’s career aspirations and industry demands. While enterprises expect the greatest increase in hiring in the next five years in sectors such as customer services, sales, information technology support, accounting and auditing, youth demonstrate more interest in pursuing sectors that companies expect less growth in. Youth also demonstrate a strong interest in moving across countries, states, and cities for employment purposes while companies are hiring locally. Further, while companies plan on hiring more contract works in the future, it is clear that youth would prefer to have employment contracts directly with companies.

Education and training choices as well as professional aspirations of youth are influenced by a complex set of social factors. While female respondents’ education and employment aspirations are at par with those of male respondents’ they face discriminatory biases in hiring and pursuing skills development opportunities, have less paid work experience than their male counterparts, and report feeling less prepared for their ideal jobs.

Further, women predominantly report time constraints as the reason for not being able to take up additional skilling programmes. These factors, driven by socio-cultural norms, must be taken into consideration in the design and delivery of future programmes.

The key findings of the survey point to a high level of optimism and ambition among Indian youth with regard to their future. India has the opportunity to build a productive and inclusive future of work in the wake of technological disruption. However, meaningful strategies for managing these transformations cannot evolve in isolation; the expectations and aspirations of young India must be built into solutions for them to be successful.”

It is the fulfilment of work which makes a job enriching, a life worth living. It takes the individual and the collective both, to upskill and evolve from time to time. In a system which has made education a business and job market a rat race, I long for a journey, in the make-shift job markets which want to sell me a career, I want a journey which serves my purpose and makes life come alive as days pass by, not the gasp which announces a lunch break!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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